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Edit: Drafted 14th overall by the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Alexander Wennberg has spent the season playing for Djurgården in the Swedish Allvenskan. Some think that the Allsvenskan is like the Swedish version of the AHL, this is not the case. With the way Sweden’s pro hockey leagues are set up, we need to remember that they are set up like European Football (Soccer) leagues. The Allsvenskan is basically the equivalent of the Italian Serie “B” to the Elite League’s Serie “A”, or like the Championship League instead of the Barclay’s Premier League. Wennberg is not stuck in the Allvenskan by any fault of his own, but rather by Djurgarden’s performance prior to him joining the team. He has been part of the Djurdarden developmental program and junior league teams for several years prior to joining the big club. Following the season, it was announced that Wennberg’s rights had been transferred to Frolunda in the Elitserien.
Wennberg has a ton of international experience playing in the 2011 Ivan Hlinka Tournament, the 2012 IIHF Under 18 World Championships, and the 2013 World Junior Championships, coming home with silver medals in each of the three international tourneys. He has generally played very well on the international stage, and his skills seem to really excel on Olympic sized rinks. A transition period as he comes to North America is to be expected and he will need time to adjust to the NHL game.
Born Sep 22 1994 — Nacka, Sweden
Height 6.01 — Weight 174 — Shoots Left
Wennberg is an amazing skater and one of the fastest prospects in this draft class. His top end speed and acceleration are both at an elite level, due in large part to a smooth, powerful, textbook skating stride. He also has very strong agility and edgework, which when coupled with his soft hands and excellent puck handling skills, makes Wennberg a very difficult player for defenders to handle one on one. He has the puck skills and the skating ability to really challenge defenders and to force them to back off or he will go by them on the outside and cut to the net.
Wennberg is much more of a playmaker than a goal scorer. While he does have good hands in tight and can score with dekes, tip ins and by pouncing on rebounds, he isn’t exactly a sniper further away from the net. Wennberg’s wrist shot has very good accuracy, but it lacks the power and the quick release to be especially dangerous. Instead Wennberg is a playmaker, with excellent vision, and pin point passing ability. He can create scoring opportunities for his linemates both off the rush and in the cycle game. Wennberg is not afraid to go to the dirty areas of the ice, however he lacks the upper body strength to be effective in board battles or in front of the net. Adding muscle mass should be a priority for Wennberg in the coming years.
Wennberg’s defensive game is extremely well developped. He comes back hard on the back check and understands his defensive responsibilities. He has great defensive awareness and diagnoses plays well, allowing him to usually be covering the right man and in the right position. He does a good job of keeping his man to the outside and cutting down the shooting and passing lanes. One area where Wennberg could improve is in the physicality department as he just doesn’t throw as many hits as we’d like to see out of a player his size.
Wennberg’s style is reminiscent of Henrik Zetterberg. However, we caution that this is a stylistic comparison and not one that is meant to be about potential, as we really don’t see Wennberg playing at the elite level that categorizes Zetterberg’s remarkable career. Instead we see Wennberg’s ceiling as a quality top 6 centre, with two way ability who can be used in all situations. He can still be a very valuable addition to any club.
Check back tomorrow for our number 19 prospect.
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photo credit: hockeyallvenskan.se